Well, the moment Chelsea fans have been thinking about since last spring has finally arrived. Antonio Conte has officially unveiled his 3-5-2.
Conte had tremendous success with the formation while managing Juventus and the Italian national team. When his hiring was announced at Stamford Bridge, everyone wondered what this would look like in the Premier League.
We finally found out on Saturday morning when Chelsea traveled to Hull City. And the performance was . . . interesting.
So far this season Conte has gone with a 4-1-4-1 setup, pairing John Terry and Gary Cahill in central defense flanked by Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic while N’Golo Kante would sit right in front of the back line. The Blues started the season with three consecutive victories and everyone was happy.
Then captain John Terry picked up an injury and, two embarrassing defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal later, Conte was back to the drawing board.
Ivanovic has been poor, while Cahill and David Luiz have not meshed well together. So, in an effort to plug some of the leaks in the back, Conte dropped Ivanovic for the trip to Hull.
Cahill, Luiz, and Azpilicueta formed a three-man back line. Conte handed Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses their first Premier League starts of the season by placing them on the left and right flanks, respectively. Despite some early causes for concern, the defense actually performed quite well, albeit against a lackluster Hull City side.
Then came the midfield setup. Cesc Fabregas was dropped again in favor of a midfield three of Nemanja Matic, Willian, and N’Golo Kante, playing a much more active role up the pitch rather than sitting in front of the defenders. Overall, the midfield was great and controlled much of the ball throughout the 90 minutes.
Up top, Diego Costa was doing, well, what Diego always does. He ran, got physical, and netted a goal. More interestingly, Eden Hazard was given a license tp roam. Usually we see the Belgian attacking from the left flank, but with Alonso taking charge on that side, Hazard was able to go where he wanted to get on the ball, turn, and attack. He looked lively and dangerous throughout the match and Chelsea ran out 2-0 winners.
Perhaps Conte’s switch to the 3-5-2 was an attempt to fix a faltering Chelsea side. Or maybe the new manager has finally had enough time with his players to implement the system he knows and loves. We’ll see if the formation is here to stay at Stamford Bridge.